Because they are fun and good for them, parents often forget how dangerous sports can be for their kids. Every year, more than 135,000 children — from 5 to 18 — nationwide find themselves in emergency rooms because of sports-related injuries. The most common diagnosis? Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which are caused by blows or jolts to the head and can disrupt the normal function of the brain. While TBIs can range from mild to severe, all should be taken seriously. The majority of TBIs are concussions, which is when the brain moves inside the skull and can even bang against the skull bone. This cerebral trauma can cause confusion, blurred vision, and memory loss. While team sports provide a wealth of emotional, social, and physical benefits for kids, it’s important to provide your young athlete with the proper protective gear and teach her to follow game regulations in order to avoid brain trauma and other serious injuries. These five team sports are the most likely to cause injury in young players.

  1. Basketball

    Is your little girl shooting to be the next Lisa Leslie or Candace Parker? It wouldn’t be a surprise, given that basketball has become the country’s most popular girls’ sport. More than 450,000 girls compete in organized play annually.

    While sprains and strains are the most common injuries, head injuries are on the rise. A recent study revealed that the number of TBIs in female ball players increased 70 percent over a 10-year period to almost 12,000 injuries per year. In effect, this means that the number of TBIs has tripled for basketball-playing girls.

  2. Cheerleading

    Here’s something not to cheer about: Cheerleading accidents account for 65 percent of all catastrophic injuries in girls’ high school athletics. This number is particularly precarious when you learn that only 10 percent of our nation’s 3 million female high-school athletes are cheerleaders.

    The number of emergency room visits by cheerleaders has tripled since the mid-1980s, mostly because of increasingly dangerous stunts without proper protection or spotting. Dr. Dawn Comstock reveals that cheerleading is more dangerous than gymnastics because the stunts are performed in a setting with less protection: football fields and basketball courts instead of matted and padded gymnastics facilities.

  3. Horseback riding

    While trotting around a ring on horseback seems a graceful and even peaceful sport, there are grave risks. According to Dr. Gloria M. Beim, horseback riding is more than 20 times more dangerous than motorcycle riding. While motorcyclists average an accident every 7,000 hours of riding, equestrians average an accident every 350 hours of riding. Most accidents occur from falling off a horse, which cause traumatic and serious injuries to the head and spinal-cord area and can result in paralysis.

  4. Soccer

    Future Martas and Hope Solos should proceed with caution when practicing their headers and penalty kicks. Statistics published by the NCAA reveal that concussions account for 11 percent of injuries in women’s soccer. Only half that rate occurs in men’s football — a sport that’s traditionally the leader in concussion injuries. While concussions often occur from heading the ball, they’re more likely to be sustained from collision with another player or the ground.

  5. Field hockey

    Though field hockey players wear eye gear and mouth guards, this gear is insufficient for preventing injuries. Female field hockey players have a 62 percent risk of sustaining three or more injuries, making it the sport mostly likely to have players sustain multiple injuries or reinjure themselves. Chronic injuries include lower-back pain; hip, knee, or ankle tendinitis; and stress fractures in the lower extremities. The majority of head and face injuries (90 percent) are a result of players being hit by a field hockey stick or ball.

Preventing injuries

To prevent injury in your child’s sport, follow the safety tips at And always make sure your child wears proper protective gear, especially when she practices. Some 62 percent of sports-related injuries occur during practice, yet only one out of three parents reports taking game-day safety precautions for practice.

See the list of the 5 most dangerous sports for boys.